Monday, February 28, 2011

Easy victory for Starluck on Huntingdon chasing bow

Alan Fleming surprised plenty of regular racing scribes earlier this month when he announced that his very classy two-mile hurdler Starluck would switch to chasing and might run in the Arkle Chase if successful on his Huntingdon debut. After winning with plenty to spare at the Cambridgeshire track on Thursday, the option of bidding for the two-mile novice chasing crown remains,

Last seen finishing third to Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton having previously run a fine second to Peddlers Cross in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newbury in November, most people had expected Starluck to take his chance over timber and bid for the Stan James Champion Hurdle itself. Fleming and the grey's owner Andrew Wates appear to have accepted that the chance of their charge beating the likes of Menorah, Binocular, Peddlers Cross and Hurricane Fly is slim, so after schooling the six-year-old they decided to take the bull by the horns and even at this late stage switch to chasing and he will no doubt attract a few Cheltenham 2011 bets.

In the main Starluck jumped soundly under Tony McCoy, only making a couple of slight novicey errors and always travelling far too strongly for his three rivals at Huntingdon. After jumping the last he coasted clear on the bridle to record a facile six-length victory over Pascha Bere and anyone looking to bet on Cheltenham racing should take this into account.

Fleming wouldn't be drawn on whether his stable star will go for the Arkle Chase, insisting he would have to discuss the matter with the owner before declaring his hand. He also suggested that there was a second option of running in a Sandown novice chase on March 5, missing Cheltenham, and instead heading for either or both of the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals in April.

Cards ace Wainwright done for the season

The 2011 MLB season has not even finished spring training yet and already the St. Loius Cardinals are in a jam. Last week, those assessing the March madness odds note how the team found out that ace Adam Wainwright will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and miss the entire season.

Those looking ahead to March madness betting should note that Tommy John surgery reconstructs the ulnar collateral ligament, replacing it with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The procedure requires months of recovery.

Wainwright, who won 20 games last year and was runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award, felt arm stiffness after a throwing session. He had also experienced soreness toward the end of last season and did not pitch during the entire month of September.

This is a huge blow for the Cardinals who are always a contender in the NL Central.
His loss leaves the team with a big hole in a starting rotation that for now includes Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook.

Now it is up to manager Tony La Russa to find someone to fill the void of Wainwright. La Russa has six or seven pitchers in camp who will have the opportunity to join the rotation. That list is headed by reliever Kyle McClellan and includes P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, Adam Ottavino, Ian Snell, Brian Tallet and Brandon Dickson.

Wainwright went 20-11 with a 2.42 earned-run average last season, finishing behind Philadelphia's Roy Halladay in Cy Young balloting while making his first all-star team. His 2.93 ERA since 2007 trails only Halladay, and no NL pitcher threw more than Wainwright's 463 1-3 innings during the past two seasons.

Clearly this is a huge loss for the Cardinals as they try to make it back into the postseason and take a run at another World Series crown.

The Cardinals will also be without Nick Punto to start the 2011 campaign. Punto was lost for between eight and 12 weeks after having surgery to repair a tear in his lower abdomen. Punto was to have seen time mostly at third base.

The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball. Now with Wainwright lost, more pressure will be put on Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and newly signed Lance Berkman.

Can La Russa pull off some of his magic once again and have the Cards in contention for the 2011 World Series? Only time will tell.

Everton v Reading FA Cup fifth round preview

These clubs have very long but very different FA Cup histories. Reading have gone no further than the semi finals, a feat they achieved in 1926/27, whilst Everton have won the competition five times and been losing finalists on eight occasions.

No team has fallen at the final hurdle more times than the Toffees, so Everton fans perhaps have a bittersweet association with the cup. They lost out to Chelsea in the final two years ago and know they have an excellent opportunity to salvage a disappointing season as only one of the ‘big four’ will be in the semi finals and the FA Cup odds reflect this.

Only Reading and Leyton Orient can prevent an all-Premier League quarter final line-up and the Royals have nothing to lose against a team whose expectations were raised by putting out holders Chelsea in round four.

Reading should be encouraged by a shaky Everton defence that goes into Saturday’s match against Sunderland with just two clean sheets in its last 21 matches, with the in-form hitman Shane Long a major threat.

Everton have been inconsistent all season but will hope the excellent performance at Stamford Bridge acts a springboard in both league and cup. Relegation is still a threat with FA Cup glory the only chance of securing league football at Goodison Park next season.

Reading have been hard to beat all season, maintaining their decent away form of last season, so an upset is perhaps more likely at Goodison than it is in a prospective replay. The Toffees are unlikely to make this one easy for themselves but should progress after being level at half-time.

Can the Sens show the Leafs how to rebuild?

The Ottawa Senators have certainly not displayed the level of performance that they have achieved in recent years to date this season, but they are certainly a side that is well aware of the difficulties in building or rebuilding a hockey franchise so that it is capable of competing to a high enough level to at least stay in contention for the play-offs.

At the moment, the Sens are so far seeing very little of any quality from their players on the ice, but they are very sensibly rebuilding their side off the ice and are doing something that shows they have a very firm understanding not only of the development of rookies and prospects, but also of where you need to start when beginning to rebuild a side by focusing every effort on defence and those who place ice hockey bets will know this.

With the Sens likely to have Spezza and Alfredsson with the franchise for at least the next year or two, GM Bryan Murray will know all too well that he is likely to be granted some time to get his offence settled and strong enough to compete with the very best in the NHL. With this in mind, the Sens now have a stellar opportunity to look at free agents and use up the $20 million that they have not used so far in their salary cap.

However, although the offence is the headline-grabbing part of a hockey team more often than not, it is the defence that takes time to get right. Once the defence is settled and firing on all cylinders, though, it can be crucial if a franchise wishes to have a realistic chance of ending up winning the magnificent Stanley Cup. For this reason, Senators fans must be delighted with the fact that the franchise has already started to find out exactly how best to draft and cultivate the defence so that it can start to consistently provide a firm foundation upon which future success can be achieved.

If they can do this in the space of the next two years, then the Senators will really have shown the long-suffering and misled Toronto Maple Leafs precisely how you rebuild a franchise.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

EPL 2010-11 : Wigan - Manutd goals

Wigan Athletic 0-4 Manchester United

0-1 - Hernandez

0-2 - Hernandez

0-3 - Rooney

0-4 - Fabio

NTD set for three

Nigel Twiston-Davies, who won the race 12 months ago with Razor Royale, is expecting to have three runners in this weekend’s renewal of the valuable Grade 3 Racing Post Chase at Kempton Park, writes Elliot Slater.

Razor Royale will on Saturday bid for a second win in the race in which he got the better of a tremendous dual with the 2009 winner Nacarat by a neck 12 months ago, with the pair clear of their rivals. He went on to run a fine fourth in the Scottish Grand National behind Merigo but this term has failed to shine, running down the field on his return behind Midnight Chase at Cheltenham, before pulling-up when tailed-off in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury a few weeks later. Info on horse racing tips show the nine-year-old is a 16/1chance to win back-to-back renewals of the coveted handicap chase.

Twiston-Davies also plans to saddle Crescent Island and Beat The Boys in the three-mile contest. Crescent Island, third in the 2009 Jewson Novices’ Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival , had been absent since pulling-up in an Aintree handicap chase a month later and was not seen again until reappearing at Wetherby in early February after a 22-month spell on the sidelines. Jumping superbly, he wiped the floor with decent opposition and has subsequently been raised 9lbs for that win. Looking at racing tips, if the ‘bounce’ factor doesn’t come into effect he could be Twiston-Davies‘ best chance in the race and is offered at a tempting 20/1.

Beat The Boys signalled he was on the way back when running very well to be second to the rejuvenated Eric’s Charm at Sandown recently and is arguably well handicapped on the best of his old form. He is generally available at 25/1 in the ante-post market for the race.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Injury worries pile up for Arsenal

Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas has been ruled out of the Carling Cup final against Birmingham, and is rumoured to be a doubt for the second leg Champions league tie against Barcelona.

The former Barcelona man picked up a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Stoke on Wednesday, while Theo Walcott will also miss the final at Wembley after picking up an ankle injury in the same game.

The loss of both men is a massive blow to Wenger’s chances in both tournaments; prior to the first game against Barcelona Lionel Messi described Walcott as “one of the most dangerous players I have played against”, While the Catalan club have publicly courted Fabregas for some time.

The hamstring injury Fabregas suffered is a reoccurrence of a problem which blighted the early part of his career, and Wenger is unsure how long he will be on the sidelines for.

“It is a very small injury but certainly Cesc will be out for Sunday. For how long (he will be out) I don't know but definitely for Sunday. He is disappointed. We all feel sorry and sad for him.” The Arsenal boss said.

“The only way we can help him now is to win the Carling Cup as he contributed a lot in this competition."

Arsenal are looking to end their 6 year spell without a trophy, and will have a good chance of doing so on Sunday, but face the tough task of going to the Nou Camp to face the current La Liga leaders for a place in the Champions League quarter finals on March 8th.

Arsenal lost at the same stage to Barcelona last year, going down 4-1 at the Nou Camp after securing a 2-2 draw largely thanks to the introduction of Walcott as a substitute, and Fabregas, who scored a penalty despite limping badly with a leg injury.

It certainly hasn’t been a lucky week for Arsenal, so perhaps anyone associated with the club should stay away from Scratch Cards Online this weekend. Unless they fancy a change in fortunes!

G-Mac takes Tiger's spot

Graeme McDowell could head into the first major of the year at Augusta as the new world number three following his elevation up the rankings this weekend. The Ulsterman will battle it out with Luke Donald for the number three spot but both should climb above former number one Tiger Woods as his winless streak stretched to 18 tournaments following his first round exit in Tuscan this week at the WGC Match Play event and the US Masters betting 2011 suggests he won't have any respite in that tournament either.

Despite overtaking Tiger in the rankings, G-Mac is realistic about his new place in world golf and the Irishman isn't in any doubt as to whether he is better than Woods.

"I'm perhaps a better golfer than Tiger in the last 12 months but he's the greatest player. If someone told me at some point in my career I would be number three in the world I'd be proud of that fact," he said.

McDowell reached the last 16 of the Match Play event alongside Donald and the Irishman will be one of the favourites to lift the title that Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter won last year. Despite his good form the US Masters betting suggests the bookies don't fancy McDowell to have much of a chance at the US Masters in April.

Plenty of punters will have a flutter on the Irishman though, especially after a year which has seen him climb from world number 50 up to his current lofty position. He became the first European player to taste success at the US Open for 40 years and followed that up by sinking the winning put at the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor later in the year to hand Europe the trophy.

Elsewhere in the rankings, there could be another change at the top with Martin Kaymer in with a chance of replacing Lee Westwood as world number one. The German will need to reach the final in Tuscan to clinch the top spot but Hunter Mahan won't be a walkover in their last 16 match this weekend.

Masters form guide - Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell has enjoyed a stellar 12 months. He started 2010 ranked 50th in the world, a reflection of his steady progress in the upper echelons of the game. He has since won his first major, hit the winning putt at a Ryder Cup, been made an MBE and is about to overtake Tiger Woods in the rankings.

All this must give the Ulsterman massive confidence, which makes him a serious challenger for glory at the Masters. More importantly he has good current form, having hit a blistering final round 62 to finish third in last month’s Hyundai tournament of champions and ending the Abu Dhabi Championship in the same position.

McDowell has so far beaten Heath Slocum and Ross Fisher by respective 4&3 and 4&2 scorelines in the WGC-Accenture Match Play, proving his game is in good working order as he continues his preparations for a major that he is yet to do himself justice in and the US Masters odds suggest he can do well this time around.

The man from Portrush finish joint 17th at Augusta in 2009 but missed the cut in his two other appearances, going home early last year with a disappointing +5 scorecard that contained four double bogeys.

He will be better prepared for the unique Augusta experience, both in terms of course familiarity and ability to handle pressure. All players walk the fairways differently after winning a major and McDowell knows this coming year provides an excellent opportunity to fill his trophy cabinet further. He was a shock winner at the US Open last year but it is a measure of his improvement that few will raise eyebrows if slips on the famous green jacket in a few weeks’ time.

France make four changes

France boss Marc Lievremont has decided to make four changes ahead of this weekend's crunch game against England at Twickenham. Lievremont has handed recalls to experienced quartet Sebastien Chabal, Vincent Clerc, Dimitri Yachvili and Yannick Jauzion.

Clement Poitrenaud will return to the bench after starting against Ireland with Maxime Medard switching to full-back from the wing despite missing training on Tuesday with a thigh problem. The versatile Damien Traille has also suffered demotion to the bench after starting France's opening two matches of this year's tournament. Morgan Parra and Julien Bonnaire are the other two who make way for this match as both sides look to continue their 100% record so far. Anyone looking to bet on England Scotland rugby should keep a close eye on this match to see how England are shaping up.

Lievremont has played down accusations that he is taking a risk by making changes to a winning side. To be fair to the French coach, it's not like he blooding untested youngster, the players recalled are all proven at this level.

"I don't have the feeling that I'm taking risks. To bring in lads like Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion and Dimitri Yachvili into a clash which promises to be hostile is rather reassuring," he said.

The importance of this game won't be lost on either side with it likely that the winner this weekend will go on to lift the trophy and possibly the Grand Slam. With the World Cup coming up later in the year, a Grand Slam in the Six Nations will be the perfect preparation.

Progressive Alfa Beat the big Irish hope for the NH chase

Ireland can boast an impressive record in the 4-mile National Hunt Chase and there will be many who fancy Alfa Beat to maintain that good record this year.

Since joining his trainer Charles Byrnes, the gelding has been very progressive and has won on all five occasions he has represented the handler and is perhaps one of the most promising Irish horses around right now and anyone looking to bet on Cheltenham 2011 should remember this.

His latest win came in the Kerry National at Listowel and it was the manner of his victory that marked him out as a strong contender for Cheltenham Festival honours. The seven-year old handled the hustle and bustle of that big field affair with aplomb and a similarly large field at Cheltenham will hold no fears.

Another bonus is that the gelding is likely to be partnered by the crack Irish amateur jockey Robbie McNamara. This partnership is already proven under race conditions as they won a handicap hurdle together at Limerick last July and the Cheltenham racing betting suggests they can continue their success.

The four-mile trip promises to suit and the Irish punters are expected to be out in force to support him and if he does win, the victory will no doubt be one of the most well-received of the four day fixture.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Could Bacinovic star in England?

You may not have heard the name Armin Bacinovic just yet, even if you're a massive fan of gaming in all forms like casino online, black jack, and gambling, but it seems a safe bet that you will have heard it more than a few times as 2011 progresses. Bacinovic, a Slovenian player, is currently enjoying a stellar debut season at Italian side Palermo but has already managed to make a strong impression in Italy, despite the fact that Serie A can be an extremely difficult league to break into.

His performances in Serie A this season have turned the heads of Carlo Ancelotti and Kenny Dalglish, with both bosses seeking to turn around the fortunes of their faltering clubs. With both sides in need of an injection of youth, it could well be that the 21-year-old midfielder turns out to be a prime target for Chelsea and Liverpool as the summer transfer window grows ever nearer.

However, one stalling point for Chelsea and Liverpool may be the reluctance on behalf of the player to move away from a club that is clearly treating him well. Bacinovic has been quoted as saying: "A move does not interest me. I've only played 20 matches in Serie A and I don't think I need to change teams. I am interested in doing well for Palermo".

Enrique forced to defend comments

Prior to the start of the season, when Newcastle United were widely tipped as a prime candidate for relegation straight back down to the Championship (primarily as a result of the immense instability that surrounds the club rather than simply a lack of quality or fighting spirit), you probably wouldn't have imagined it would be a safe bet that several of the top clubs in England would be clamouring for the signature of one or two of their players.

However, Andy Carroll has already proved that assumption entirely wrong, making a £35 million move to Liverpool during the January transfer window, and now Jose Enrique is doing his bit to prove the club's critics wrong. The Spanish defender has enjoyed a decent season at club level in the north-east and is thought to be on the radar of top European sides including Liverpool, Manchester United, and, perhaps surprisingly Milan.

With the player only seeming to improve with every passing game for the Magpies, he has been forced to come out and defend comments made by the defender that seemed to hint at a desire to leave the club.

At the age of 25, the time could be right for Enrique to move to a bigger club and seek a bigger challenge. The question is, would he want to? Get the latest transfer odds at Unibet.

Can West Ham carry forward Cup momentum?

West Ham surprised more than just a few onlookers this week with their thrashing of a tough Burnley side at home in the FA Cup, with goals seeming not to be an issue for a side that has so often this season looked clueless in front of the net. With the win representing their eighth win from nine in Cup competitions this season, it seems clear that they need to carry over this momentum into league games if they want to retain their Premier League status.

Avram Grant is a man who is all too familiar with Cup success going hand in hand with league misery. He did precisely the same thing at Portsmouth, with his record there providing a really interesting stat. Grant won the same number of league games as he did FA Cup games during his six month stint in charge of the club.

If Grant can convince his players to carry over the confidence that such a decent Cup run brings with it, then West Ham need not fear relegation. If, however, the manager continues his trend of suffering in the league whilst starring in the Cup competitions, it could be a long few months for Hammers fans. Go to Unibet for the latest football bet odds.

Djokovic breezes past Llodra

Novak Djokovic successfully navigated his was past Michael Llodra 6-3 6-3 in the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships.

The Australian Open Champion, playing for the first time since his Grand Slam victory over Andy Murray at the Rod Lever Arena, played supremely well as he made light work of the Frenchman. He has been installed as one of the tennis betting favourites for the tournament.

Djokovic, gunning for his third successive Dubai title, broke early on to lead the first set 3-2, and never looked likely to relinquish his lead, and closed out the set with another break to take the first set 6-3.

The Serbian’s domination continued as he swiftly took a 3-1 lead after another early break, and despite a wobble at 5-3 where the world number three found himself 40-0 down, he served out the set to take the match in just over 60 minutes.

The double-Grand Slam winner declared himself happy with his day’s work, and admitted he had been concerned having not played since the Australian Open final on 30th January.

"I didn't know how I'm going to start the tournament after three weeks of not playing an official match, so I have to say I'm happy with the performance today.” Djokovic said.

"I think he didn't serve as well and as fast as our last match in Paris a couple of months back. But still, I was managing to return a lot of balls back and making him play an extra shot.”

World number two Roger Federer will make his return to the game in the championships, having lost to Djokovic in straight sets at the Australian Open.

Tennis bets will have been placed in the Swiss star’s favour to win the tournament, but he faces a tough task in toppling the in-form Djokovic should the pair meet.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Johnson's men need a tough test from France

Saturday's match with France is a vital fixture for England, not only as we are looking to move one step closer to the championship and an overdue Grand Slam, but in the sense that France will provide one of the strongest tests we come up against before the World Cup in September.

Martin Johnson will certainly have one eye on the grand slam title challenge and one eye on September as he watches his team line up on Saturday.

The amount of testing fixtures between now and September are few and far between, and so, although England will be looking for victory in the short term, they will also be hoping that a strong France team turn up and produce a solid performance which will add great value England's preparations for the World Cup.

It could be fair to say that there have been greater developments in the England squad this season than there has been in the last 3 or 4 seasons. The performances have been very encouraging, with the team producing an ambitious, fluid, entertaining brand of rugby. They have been certainly tested at times and produced errors, but this just goes to show how quickly they are learning and how essential a stern test is and anyone following the goalwire livescore should remember this.

If France set out to perform and win this Saturday, rather than simply arriving in body and leaving their heart at the French boarder like 2 years ago, then England will have the opportunity to add to their development and also discover if their brand of Rugby they have been producing can withstand the power and pace of a French outfit. The recent goalwire livescores suggest it should be a close game.

In an ideal world, If France put England on the back foot and Johnsons men come out with a win, this would certainly give the squad a huge confidence boost and give maturity to the young players who currently driving the team. Such a turnout would stand us in good stead for New Zealand in September.

Can Torres and Drogba work well together?

Although the Blues will have surely thought this through before they decided to spend £50 million on Fernando Torres, those of us outside of the Chelsea FC set-up are still trying to work out whether or not Torres and Didier Drogba really can play together or whether the Blues have instead bought the Spaniard as a direct replacement for the talented but aging Ivorian.

With the Blues not really being entirely successful so far at accommodating the two together, and with the Chelsea team having had to be entirely reorganised so that it can accommodate Torres, questions surrounding the wisdom of the purchase have of course started to gather momentum. However, with Torres out of form for almost the entire season, it is perhaps unfair to judge him for the poor start he has managed so far at Chelsea and Betfair Football fans should remember this.

Should Torres return to form, then surely the combination of him and Drogba would be more than capable of causing massive problems for defences both in the Premier League and in Europe as they combine with Drogba playing the role of the big man, and Torres playing the role of the man who gets on the end of any knockdowns. The Premier League betting odds suggest they should score plenty of goals next season.

However, should the Blues fail to show that they are indeed capable of incorporating such a hugely gifted individual into their side, then it will not bode well for the future of a club that is desperate not to slip from the top ranks of European football, or for the club's manager Carlo Ancelotti, who is already under increasing amounts of pressure to show that he can be the man who ensures that next season is not as disappointing as this year has been for the Blues.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lievremont admits to “dislike” for England

France head coach Marc Lievremont kicked off the war of words ahead of their crucial 6 Nations clash against England on Saturday, claiming he “does not like” England.

The weekend fixture is being billed as the deciding match in this year’s tournament, with both the only remaining teams unbeaten after two games.

England faced a similar verbal attack from Wales head coach Warren Gatland before their game in the opening round of the tournament. Gatland focused his attention on England hooker Dylan Hartley, accusing him of “talking too much” while questioning his ability to compete at the highest level.

England went on to win 19-26, and the former Wasps coach admitted he had made a mistake in talking to the media before the game.

Lievremont admitted he had a dislike of the English, and believes he will have the backing of the other teams in the tournament for the game at Twickenham. He said: “We don't like them (the English) and it's better to say that than be hypocritical.”

“We appreciate our Italian cousins with whom we share the same quality of life,"

"We appreciate the Celts and their conviviality and then among all these nations we have one huge thing in common. We all don't like the English.”

"We beat Ireland yet left Dublin with the encouragement of all the Irish who said 'for pity's sake, beat the English'.” he added.

The former French U-21 coach said he had respect for England and the way in which they have approached the tournament, and described Martin Johnson’s men as “on a different level” compared to when the two teams last met.

“This insular country, who always drape themselves in the national flag, their hymns, their chants, their traditions. They are people who one regards as a very proud people," he said.

"But we are also very aware, in terms of planning and preparation, that the English are already in 2011 World Cup mode.”

Earlier in the week Lievremont admitted to the weekend game being a “headache” for him, because of the style of play England have shown so far against Wales and Italy.

England captain Lewis Moody looks to winning his race to be fit in time for the game after playing for 23 minutes in Bath’s 38-8 win over Northampton on Saturday. Adidas flanker wearer Tom Croft also stepped up his return from injury, featuring in Leicester’s 21-12 win over Wasps.

Westwood looking to stamp Masters mark

World number one Lee Westwood will this week compete in the World Match Play Championship, looking to stamp a marker down ahead of the opening major of the year in April. By the time the US Masters comes around, Westwood will be hoping to be on a decent run of form as he desperately attempts to lift his first major and truly announce himself as the world's best player.

Westwood hasn't been given any favours in the Match Play tournament following the withdrawal of Toru Taniguchi with a neck injury; the Englishman's opening match will now be against former winner and world number 65 Henrik Stenson. The 2007 champion is something of a match-play expert and will fancy his chances in the tie.
The Swede has been a shadow of his former self following a mystery illness and is only just rediscovering his form. Stenson will still prove to be a tough opening test for Westwood and one which could very easily spring a surprise on the world number one. Stenson reached the semi-final stage last year before losing to eventual winner Tiger Woods.

Westwood will be out to build up momentum heading into Augusta, where he came so close to success last year. Phil Mickelson took the title last April, three shots ahead of Westwood in second and the Englishman will be hoping to go one step further this year and the US Masters odds suggest he has every chance of doing so.

The Englishman's record at Augusta before his second place finish last year had been far from impressive, with only one top 10 finish in 10 appearances at the tournament. Last year's performance will give Westwood confidence that he can handle the tough course and the 37-year-old will be one of the favourites in the Masters odds heading into the tournament.

Westwood will be behind leading favourites Tiger Woods and last year's champion Mickelson, who have seven Masters titles behind them. The American duo will be strongly backed but Westwood will be part of a European challenge, with Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey to name but three.

Will Bautista resigning pay off for Blue Jays

Baseball betting pundits note how The Toronto Blue Jays had a tough decision to make heading into this offseason. What to do with their star-slugger Jose Bautista?

MLB Betting experts note how Bautista is coming off a season where he hit a club record 54 home runs, more than tripling his previous career high of 16 set in 2006. The .260 batting average, .378 on-base percentage, 124 RBIs, 109 runs and 100 walks also stand far beyond his past levels of production.

Certainly those numbers would warrant a pay raise.

So the Jays put up a $64-million, five-year extension to the third baseman/outfielder to avoid arbitration and keep him from free agency in the fall.

This is in many ways a gamble for the Blue Jays but one GM Alex Anthopoulos felt he had enough inside knowledge to make the decision sensibly.

Going to arbitration with Bautista and waiting until next fall to try and lock up the 2010 home run champion was the safe move. Especially when you are evaluating a player on one spectacular season unlike any other in an otherwise uneventful career.

Bautista gets $8 million in 2011, and $14 million in each of 2012-15. The club holds also an option of $14 million for the 2016 season with a $1-million buyout.

So what does Bautista have to do in future seasons to make this extension a good move? Can he do enough to even come close? Very few are expecting him to hit 50 home runs again and even 30 home runs seems like a long shot. It is just so hard to tell when a player has one season that is out of the ordinary from previous years.

The Jays are taking a gamble and maybe that is what it takes in the AL East. They are stuck behind three teams loaded with talent and two (the Yankees and Red Sox) who spend like no other.

Shedding the inflated contract of Vernon Wells was a celebrated move by Anthopoulos and it will help the club move forward right away. But it could very well be the Bautista signing that defines the new GM and how he will turn the Blue Jays into contenders or pretenders.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

FA Cup 2010-11 : Manutd - Crawley Town goals

Manchester United 1-0 Crawley Town

1-0 - Brown


Friday, February 18, 2011

Williams looks to prove fitness

New Zealand lock Ali Williams is hopeful of working his way back to full fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup later this year. The 29-year-old underwent Achilles tendon and shoulder operations in 2009 before rupturing a different area of his tendon as he prepared to make his comeback, but is now looking to wear his first Super15 Jersey in a tournament rebranded as Superugby, for two years.

His club side, the Blues, go up against the Crusaders in their opening game of the season, and Williams believes he is in good physical shape and ready to play a full part in the match. He said: Physically I'm exactly where I was."

"But in terms of game-related things and time on the field, it's pretty obvious I'm not where I was two years ago.

"You're not going to see a miracle out there, you're not going to see a world beater out there, But you are going to see someone that wants to be out there and loves playing rugby.

Williams had a brief spell with the Championship side Nottingham as he looked to work his way back into the game after a prolonged period on the sidelines, playing four games for the club. Now back fully fit, Williams is hopeful of working his way back into New Zealand head coach Graham Henry’s squad for the World Cup, held in New Zealand, later this year.

His club side are looking to win their first Championship since 2003, and have missed the end of season play-off’s for the previous two years. Williams, who has won 61 caps for the all-blacks will be key to chance they have of success this year if he can make it through the competition.

Get the champagne on ice as Skater bids for a Golden double

The Golden Jacket Crayford's premier competition got underway last week and as ever it provided it's fair share of thrills and spills.

Blue Bee the ante-post favourite was eliminated from his heat, after trapping well he turned in a handy position and looked set to make a race winning move as the field entered the back straight for the first time, as excited punters watched on with baited breath.

However at Crayford things rarely pan out as you would expect and the unexpected happened again here, as Blue Bee stumbled, fell over, and was out of the competition in a flash, leaving those fans who had backed him to curse their luck.

The heat eventually went to ante-post second favourite Lorrys Options, but he took a long time to get going and may find a few to sharp in the later rounds and those looking at the best available greyhound betting should remember this.

Group Skater, the reigning champion, again showed his liking for the tight turns of the Kent track and after witnessing the performances from the opening round he can prove the one to beat. With Crayford being such a unique circuit it is not unusual to see greyhounds run-up sequences at the circuit. The way Group Skater glides around the bends is a joy to watch and it will take a big performance to lower his colours.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yzerman gets chance to show Red Wings what he learned in Detroit

With Tampa Bay Lightning enjoying a fantastic season so far, their coach and rookie GM Steve Yzerman is now is going to have to let his head rule his heart as he faces the franchise at which he made his name in the NHL.

Steve Yzerman has admitted that this is the first that he wants the Red Wings to be defeated by another franchise, and he'll know that he will need to utilise all the skills and training that he learned as a grunt coach at Detroit if he is to stand a chance of defeating possibly the greatest franchise in NHL history, and the ice hockey odds suggest he has every chance of doing this.

However, with Yzerman already transforming his previously underperforming side to one that can realistically challenge for a spot in the playoffs this season, the challenge of playing against the Red Wings is just a minor moment in the rebuilding of the Tampa Bay franchise from one that has been seen as a bit of a joke to one that is seen as being a real contender to win the magnificent Stanley Cup.

Having said that, although this may just be a minor game, the reality is that a victory against the Red Wings could be the kind of result that sees the Lightning really start to believe that they are not only a side good enough to win the South East Division, but one also capable of going the whole way and showing that they can compete against the very best from an incredibly strong Western Conference.

Should Yzerman manage to upstage his old side, this may be the start of another special chapter in his already magnificent career.

Forpady ruled out of Ryanair Cheltenham Festival challenge

Tom Cooper’s smart performer Forpadydeplasterer will not take his chance in the Ryanair Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival after failing to recover in sufficient time from his exertions when a sick horse in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park last month,

Runner-up in last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase to fellow Irish star Big Zeb, the nine-year-old has been attempting to fashion a career over longer distances this term and held a speculative entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (as well as in the Champion Chase once again), but Cooper made it clear some time ago that the Ryanair Chase was the event they were targeting for horse racing Ireland

A runner-up to Albertas Run over two-and-a-half miles in the Grade 1 Melling Chase last April, the Moscow Society gelding went to Kempton’s delayed ‘King George’ in January on the back of a solid effort over the minimum trip when chasing home the useful Gauvain in November. But at Kempton the Irish horse was never travelling with his usual fluency and was beaten such a long way from home that the extended trip was never going to be revealed to be the cause of his failure to complete the course which affected Irish horse racing tips.

After pulling up before the 12th fence, Cooper took his stable star home and soon found he was suffering from an infection. That illness was soon overcome but it has taken longer than anticipated for Forpadydeplasterer to get back into the old routine so connections have taken the decision not to rush his preparation to have him ready for Cheltenham, and instead look to the Punchestown Festival on home soil in April.

Poquelin, trained by Paul Nicholls, remains the clear punters pick at present for the Ryanair Chase and is a solid 4/1 market leader.

Spender to miss Kempton and head straight to Cheltenham

Colin Tizzard has revealed the latest plans for his talented handicapper Hey Big Spender who bounced right back to his best with an impressive win under a big weight at Warwick recently, writes Elliot Slater.

Tizzard has his strongest ever team heading to the Cheltenham Festival next month, headed by Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite Cue Card, smart novice chaser Hell's Bay, Triumph Hurdle candidate Third Intention, and Hey Big Spender, who after his recent success will go directly to Cheltenham and miss the Racing Post Chase, a race for which he had been quoted at around 16/1 in most ante-post lists.

Carrying 11st 12lbs in the class 2 handicap chase over two-miles and five furlongs at Warwick, Tizzard's eight-year-old led at the 13th and always had the race under control from then on. He ran out a four-length winner from Fine Parchment, confirming himself back to the kind of form that saw him beat John Smith's Grand National candidate Big Fella Thanks in good style in a Carlisle graduation chase earlier in the season and looks a decent prospect in the Cheltenham odds.

Fancied by many good judges to run a big race in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on his subsequent outing, the Rudimentary gelding led for much of the trip but had faded out of contention when taking a tired fall at the final fence. A lack lustre run at Cheltenham on New Year's Day did little to inspire confidence for the rest of the term, but clearly Tizzard has his charge back to close to his best now and has the option of bidding for either the Byrne Group Plate Handicap Chase, or the Ryanair Chase, a race for which he is priced up at around 33/1 with most firms.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Selby seals stunning win

Mark Selby played a stunning decisive frame to beat Stuart Bingham by four frames to three at the Wyldecrest Park Homes Welsh Open on Tuesday.

The Leicester-based player looked like crashing out of the competition but a brilliant clearance of 52 resulted in him securing progression by potting the very last black of the match.

Selby won the first frame with a break of 95 before he went 2-0 up with a superb clearance of 74 after finding himself 64 points in arrears. However, Bingham was not to be deterred and won the next two frames to level the match.

A break of 96 gave Selby a 3-2 lead but Bingham responded with a 77 in the sixth frame to level matters once again and at that point all snooker bets were off.
Bingham opened the final frame with a break of 52 but missed a straight red that he should have easily potted. A safety shot from Selby then earned him the chance to pick off his opponent and he did this with aplomb, despite the balls not being in the most favourable of positions.

Speaking after the match, a clearly relieved Selby said: "In the last few events I've been concerned about whether I can produce my best under pressure, so it was nice to do that today.

"I expected Stuart to win the last frame in one visit so I was delighted to get a chance and take it."

The Welsh Open is Selby's only ranking title to date and if he claims it for a second time, he will gain significant confidence going into the China Open and the World Championship later in the year.

Hodgson reveals full control at West Brom

West Brom’s sporting director has stressed that head coach of the football club Roy Hodgson will have the final say on any new signings.

Dean Ashworth will be working closely with the former Fulham and Liverpool boss to identify potential targets for the summer.

However, he stresses that it is Hodgson and not him who will have the final say on who will come to the sport side.

Ashworth confirmed: "My job is to line up players, in conjunction with Roy, helping with transfer fees, wages, and maybe doing a bit of groundwork.

"But ultimately there is no point in bringing in a player Roy doesn't like because he won't play.

"Roy has the ultimate say."

For his part, Hodgson admits he will be working closely with Ashworth and knows he has an important role within the club.

Hodgson has also stressed that even though his job title is now ‘head coach’ and not ‘manager’, he has still got the same job he has enjoyed since 1976.

He said: "I'm the man who works with the players every day, works with the team, picks the team and tries to get them playing in a certain way.

"I know West Brom do tend to make a bit of a thing about the word 'coach' instead of 'manager' but it doesn't make any difference to me and the job I'll be doing."

Martinez keeps faith in Wigan

Roberto Martinez is convinced that his Wigan side can end the season in strong fashion.

The club currently sits in 18th position in the Premier League table but they are unbeaten in four matches, including claiming a credible point against a resurgent Liverpool at Anfield last Saturday.

Their next match is an FA Cup replay against Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday night and although the league is undoubtedly paramount, Martinez is hoping to breed a positive mentality within the team.

The Wigan supremo stressed: "The more experience they have the stronger they get mentally and it makes you capable.

"The group is in a very good moment mentally and it is very important that we understand we want to win every game we play in.

"We are going to carry on progressing and that is always a good mentality to have.

"The team is showing great maturity, the way we played at Anfield showed that, and that means it should give you a lot of [league] points."

Martinez admits he will rest some of his regulars for the match against the Trotters due to the importance of the league but he denies he is taking the cup lightly.

Mentality is the key to getting out a relegation battle and the former Swansea boss will know that a win over Bolton could keep the momentum going.

Premier League Darts Week Two: Taylor looks for Revenge against Webster

Phil Taylor is an incredible talent, no sooner had he lost his world crown to his protégé Adrian Lewis he was being pronounced the winner of the prestigious Players Championship just at the Doncaster Dome a few weeks later. While Taylor was winning the tournament for the second time in the three years since its inception, Lewis floundered, knocked out in the first round by former BDO World Champion, Steve Beaton in his first competitive match since being crowned world champion in January. Taylor defeated world final runner up, Gary Anderson 13-12 in an epic final, the Scot proving that he has lost none of his form since losing to Lewis in the World Final at the ‘Ally Pally’ six weeks ago.

The scene was set therefore for the two to meet on opening night in the hugely popular Premier League of Darts at O2 Arena in London last week, a title that Taylor has won five times from the six years it has been played and who went totally unbeaten last year, winning twelve and drawing two of his fourteen league matches. On Play-Off night he dispatched Mervyn King 8-1 in the semi finals and then won the final 10-8 against James Wade, scoring two nine dart finishes in the process. With such a record it was surely too much for even the new world champion to cope with.

However, 26 year old Lewis appeared to cast aside reputations, clearly not letting Taylor’s pedigree in the tournament faze him in any way and proceeded to do a demolition job on Taylor running out an 8-2 winner, inflicting the heaviest defeat on Taylor in this competition that he has ever known. Lewis’s victory immediately raised question marks concerning Taylor’s fallibility particular from those with short memories who had already forgotten Taylor’s Players Championship win.

Taylor like any true champion, took the defeat like the champion that he is admitting that he played second string to Lewis who clearly had rekindled the form he showed to win the World Crown and had, very professionally forgotten his poor display in Doncaster.

After one round then the Premier Darts League looks strange reading with Phi Taylor’s name at the bottom for the first time ever. He will not be there for long however, that is for certain. That said he next faces the man who dumped him out of the world championship, Mark Webster, who comes into the match, having beaten James Wade 8-3 in his first ever Premier League match last week. This week’s matches take place at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. Should Webster win, particularly if wins in the same emphatic style as Lewis achieved last week, then it would certainly ‘put the cat amongst the pigeons’ and possibly persuade the Bookmakers to remove Taylor from the top of the Premier Darts League betting.

In the other three matches Simon Whitlock takes on Raymond Van Barneveld, who both last week, Whitlock 5-8 to Anderson and ‘Barny’ 6-8 to outsider, Terry Jenkins. Lewis will take on 2009 Premier League champion and runner up last year, Wade, while Anderson is the favourite, as short as 4/9 with Victor Chandler to win against Jenkins.

Online casino or land casino?

The rise of online casinos has resulted in greater competition for the traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Live casinos contain people with whom you can interact. This makes them far more socialable than their online equivalents but perhaps less comfortable as there is no place more relaxing than home.

Connoisseurs of online gaming may find live casinos a little inconvenient as you cannot change games instantaneously. To go from the craps table to the roulette wheel takes more effort than just a click of a mouse.

Free drinks are often included when you are gambling in a traditional casino but these can impair your judgment, forcing you to make rash decisions. The same is true of time limits and the pressure you may feel when playing with others.

Meanwhile, online, there is rarely a time limit in the casino games and it is often just you against the dealer. You can also control your drinking and thus are more likely to make calculated decisions. This means online gaming may be better for novice gamblers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day relishing O'Sullivan test

Ryan Day admits he is looking forward to facing Ronnie O'Sullivan in the last-16 of the Wyldecrest Park Homes Welsh Open.

Day powered his way past veteran Jimmy White in Newport on Monday, demolishing the Englishman by four frames to nil in a mere 48 minutes.

Impressive breaks of 125, 68 and 102 for the Pontycymmer potter will have O'Sullivan worried, particularly as Day is coming into form at exactly the right time and anyone thinking about placing a bet should remember this.

Speaking after the match, he said: "Last week I couldn't hit a barn door in practice, but I played well today.

"When Jimmy was playing in the qualifiers I was following the live scoring and rooting for him, because I knew it would be a great atmosphere tonight. I'm looking forward to playing Ronnie now."

Day admits that belief has been the key to his recent upturn in form, confessing that he was losing to players he should never have lost to earlier in the season.
The nadir was at the Players Tour Championship events, after which he dropped out of the top 16 in the world rankings.

He continued: "I was trying to grasp something but kept losing and I was feeling dejected. It knocked me for six. After the PTC series finished it was a relief because I could look forward to the UK Championship. I beat Jamie Burnett 9-5, from 4-2 down, and since then I've had more belief."

Day is a long shot in Ladbrokes snooker bets to win the Welsh Open and will know he will have to be at his best if he is to beat The Rocket on Wednesday evening.
The pair met at the second round stage of the 2006 World Championship when Day forced his way into a 9-7 lead, only to lose 10-13. He will be hoping for more luck this time around.

Day can take strength in one thing as the Welshman is guaranteed to have a partisan home crowd on his side.

Weekend racing Trends

This weekend brings some outstanding televised action from Haydock and Ascot – with three races in particular taking the eye, not only do they stand out as races in their own right but they are also sure to provide some clues for big races to come this year.

Here are some of the dominant trends from the last 10 years around those races to help those looking for betting tips this weekend.

Taking the races in chronological order brings us first to the Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot where 8/10 winners have featured in the first two in the market and 9/10 winners won their last race. It also pays to be fairly lightly raced over fences as horses that have had three or less runs over fences have won 80% of the races from 55% of the runners. This is not a race to be backing horses priced at 5-1 or better they have produced just one winner from 29 runners over the past 10 seasons.

The Rendlesham Hurdle has often been seen as a worthy adjunct to the World Hurdle, with neither Big Buck's nor Grands Crus entered in this it's unlikely it will have a huge impact on the World Hurdle betting this year but the race still has some decent positive trends to help us out. Positive trends dominate in this race – the favourite has a good record winning five of the last nine runnings of the race. It also pays to make sure that your selection ran a respectable race last time out, 8/10 finished in the first four last time out and if you like course statistics then 8 of the last 10 winners raced at either Cheltenham, Ascot or Haydock.

Last but not least we see the Betfair Chase come under scrutiny where 9/10 winners have been priced at 15-2 or less, with five winning favourites included in those. So the market has provided a good guide to this race. This is not a race where a recent run is needed though and plenty of winners have come here as fresh horses - 6/10 winners have had a break of at least seven weeks, so it could be that being fresh helps a great deal especially if the horse comes from a race at Ascot, Cheltenham or Kempton - those three courses have provided the 8 out of the last 10 winners.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Finian's Rainbow impresses in Arkle warm-up

Nicky Henderson has a strong chance of landing the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham in March with Finian's Rainbow.

The 8 year old was a very smart novice hurdler last season and finished fourth in the Neptune Investment novice hurdle over 2 miles and 5 furlongs at the festival. However he has taken his form to a new level since meeting the larger obstacles in winning the grade 2 Kingmaker novice chase at Warwick, he extended his record over fences to three wins from as many starts.

The win at Warwick came in what turned out to be a messy four-runner race, on ground that was a little sticky and may not have been ideal for the gelding by Tiraaz. However the fact that he still managed to win impressively was testament to his natural talent. At Cheltenham with a much stronger gallop to chase and a bigger field set to go to post, he should settle better and that is likely to see him show the true ability he possesses, and anyone looking to place Cheltenham 2011 bets should remember this.

Few trainers have a better festival record than Nicky Henderson and the master of Seven Burrows is sure to have the likely favourite fully tuned up for the big day and he seems sure to run a big race. Eagle-eyed punters may also be able to spot some tips for Grand National action, as one or two horses may be given a run out before the Aintree event.

As ever there will be a strong challenge from across the Irish Sea and the biggest challenger from that side of the water may be Realt Dubh. Noel Meade's novice has gone from strength to strength in recent times and has already picked up a pair of grade one chases at Leopardstown. Those wins though have been achieved on ground softer than he is likely to encounter at Cheltenham and although he is respected Finian's Rainbow may well have too much speed at the business end.

Tiger finally bares his teeth

Tiger Woods' form at the Dubai Desert Classic will come as a massive relief to the former world number one. His unshakable belief in his ability is well-documented, but the long run of poor form must have given him some doubts, even if he wasn't amongst those who deemed his recent decline to be terminal.

The remedial work done on Woods' swing and short game under the watchful eye of coach Sean Foley in a much-needed off-season was put to the test after an erratic display in the opening round in Dubai and Woods delivered in fine style in the second round, carding a bogeyless 66.

This was undoubtedly his best round since he returned to golf early in 2010. For a player who has won 14 majors it does not constitute a return to top form, but it is a base to work on that was absent for most of last year. Of course, the golf betting odds usually suggest Woods will do well in a tournament, but it's hard to escape the feeling that he is still living off past glories.

The low points were numerous in 2010. The sixth missed cut of his career at the Quail Hollow Championship, the second round 79 in the same tournament, the 78th place finish at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the winless year all contributed to a crisis that suggested the way back to the top would not be easy.

This has proved to be the case, as consistency remains a problem. He mixed an eagle and some stunning drives with some three putts and wild approaches in his opening round at Dubai, a hit-and-miss standard of play that he set in finishing joint 44th at the Farmers Insurance Open in his opening tournament of the year.

However, Woods' signs of improvement are clear to see, especially as he found his Dubai form in a historic threesome with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the men who have overhauled him in the world rankings – the best possible preparation for the latter stages of a major. Woods has the pedigree and experience and form to triumph at Augusta and might well arrive with the necessary current form.

Can the Yankees return to glory in 2011?

After another postseason disappointment, there is no team that makes more effort to fix what went wrong faster than the New York Yankees. They have the cash to do it and every offseason they throw a lot of money around in an attempt to right the ship instantly.

This offseason has not been one that would be considered by MLB betting pundits as a success. They did not get the big fish they wanted and had to make some tough decisions on keeping two of their greatest players ever.

Cliff Lee, the All-Star pitcher, was the guy they wanted but could not get in the end. Lee would of made them one of the instant World Series favourites.

It wasn’t just Lee passing on the Yankees that hurt the most. It was his decision to go to another East Coast team, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies, who are also trying to get back to the World Series, have taken the Yankees’ blueprint for success and done it even better as of late. They keep coming up with good minor league prospects while spending money like crazy. Clearly they learned from the best and now it is paying off.

The Yankee pitching staff will roll out Rafael Soriano and Pedro Feliciano that will help a bullpen that could be New York's strength if David Robertson, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain find consistency. With so many question marks hanging on the Yankees’ starting rotation past CC Sabathia, bullpen depth could be what carries them through the season.

In the end, nearly two-thirds of the Yankees’ free agent spending went to retaining Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

Baseball betting pundits note how New York's 2011 lineup will look very similar to last season as the only change will be new catcher Russell Martin. The Yankees spent $4 million on Russell and hopes he can return to his 2007 stats and not what he has put up lately. Top prospect Jesus Montero will add some much needed youth into the lineup giving the Yankees another potent bat.

In an offseason of what many consider a disappointment, The Yankees will still be one of the stronger teams in the American League. The question comes down to, did they improve enough? The Boston Red Sox should be the prohibitive favourite after adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to their already talented squad.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cheltenham day one - the biggest races

The second half of Day One opens with the highlight of the day the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Here's part two of our quick and handy guide to how each race is shaping up at the moment on the opening day and there is plenty for fans of online betting to get their teeth into.

Champion Hurdle

The 2011 running of the Champion Hurdle has developed into one of the stronger contests with a nice contrast between a former winner in Binocular, some new kids on the block - Menorah, Peddlers Cross, Hurricane Fly and Oscar Whisky – with an improving handicapper Mille Chief thrown in for good measure. Last year's winner Binocular will have disappointed many with his effort at Sandown, when he struggled to beat a vastly inferior stable mate, but then he's done that before peaking for his big day at Cheltenham. The improving bunch include two winners from the 2010 Festival in Menorah and Peddlers Cross, the latter having already beaten Binocular at Haydock earlier this year when the reigning Champion was a still finding his form for the season. Both of those will have their supporters although Peddlers Cross is under a small cloud at the moment due to a coughing scare and those looking to place a horse racing bet should remember this.

Hurricane Fly has been beating all of the opposition put before him in Ireland and this son of Montjeu who has an easy cruising style is sure to be going easily throughout most of the race, whether he gets up the Cheltenham hill or not is another matter, but if he does he will give Montjeu his first Cheltenham winner. Oscar Whisky is another like Binocular from the Henderson stable and he has sealed his place in the line-up with an easy and convincing win in the Welsh Champion Hurdle – he once again gives Nicky Henderson a strong hand in the race. Alan King has won the race before with Katchit and his Mille Chief threw his hat in the ring when winning a Sandown handicap impressively of 145. That form alone would not be enough to win a Champion Hurdle but he still has improvement in him and gives the race yet another dimension. Already set as the highlight of the day if all of these contenders make the gig we are in for a race to remember.

Cross Country Handicap Chase

One of those races that you either love or hate at the Festival as the runners wind their way around the inside of the main courses jumping a variety of poles, hedges, banks and fences before finishing in front of the stands. All the six runnings of this event has been won by the Irish and four of them were horses trained by Enda Bolger, so once again it should be his contenders that you are looking out for. They will be headed by Garde Champetre and L'Ami who have both recently demonstrated their well-being and most crucially have experience of the Cross Country course at Cheltenham which is a major positive for any contender in this race. The GB horses have struggled to get a foothold in this race and it's generally best left to the Irish to take this one home.

David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

One of the newer races at the Festival this will be the fourth running of the event, but the event is growing in prestige each year and in Quevega we have had a real star win the race for the last two years. She is unsurprisingly at the head of the market again as connections look set to ignore tougher targets such as the Champion/World hurdles in return for a three-timer in this race. She's not been seen since winning at the Punchestown Festival last April but she goes well fresh having won the race off a similar break last year. She will be one of the likely Irish bankers on the first day. The main opposition will come from two other Irish mares Voler La Vedette and Our Girl Salley but it would be a major shock if Quevega is beaten by either of these. Whiteoak won the first running for Donald McCain but since then it has been a barren race for those trained this side of the Irish Sea, but the home team have a creditable challenger this year in Sparky May who demolished a decent field at Ascot recently and looks to be improving rapidly.

Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase

The race has a new name but don't get confused as this is really the race that used to be run as the Jewson handicap which opened the third day of the Festival. As with the other handicap chase that will be run on the opening day this one has no entries for it yet and it guesswork as to which horses will eventually run in the race. One thing that we would say is that a lot of the horses that are currently quoted in the ante-post lists for the race won't be eligible as the race is only open to those rated 0-140 and many quoted are already rated higher than that band. Take care when looking at this race before the entries/weights are known.

Moore hoping for more Totesport glory

Many serious punters like to consider trends when assessing the relative merits of horses ahead of major races. Anyone looking at the results of the Totesport Trophy at Newbury over the last few seasons will see instantly that trainer Gary Moore has landed two of the last three renewals of what is undoubtedly one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the whole National Hunt season.

In 2007, Moore sprang something of a shock when his 50/1 shot Heathcote won in the hands of the trainer's son Jamie. Just to prove that win was no fluke, Moore senior and junior repeated the feat just 12 months later when their Wingman won at horse racing betting odds of 14/1, running off bottom weight of 10 stones.

This year Moore is represented by another bottom weight Sircozy, a horse who will run from 4lbs out of the handicap having a true allocated weight of 9st 10lbs. Because the minimum weight for the contest is 10 stones, then effectively the five-year-old is 4lbs 'wrong' at the weights. Is the horse a complete no-hoper then, (as his odds of around 66/1 suggest) or could he spring another major surprise in the way that Heathcote did four years ago?

On the face of it Sirkozy has a great deal to do having run only moderately after a winter break when sixth of seven runners at Taunton in a run-of-the-mill handicap. His two earlier efforts this season when third at Huntingdon and then when second at Sandown in a fair event, suggest that here is a horse who is best suited by two miles, who goes on decent ground, and who is probably best suited by a big field where he can be covered up and produced late.

The Celtic Swing gelding is likely to encounter most, if not all of the above, so don't be surprised if Gary Moore's charge runs far better than his bare form might suggest in a race his handler knows exactly how to win.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heaslip return boosts the Irish

Ireland head coach Declan Kidney have decided against making wholesale changes ahead of this weekend's crunch game against France. The only change made by the Irish will be the return of Jamie Heaslip at number eight, the Leinsterman has managed to shake off his troublesome ankle. The return of Heaslip means Sean O'Brien will revert to blindside flanker, forcing Denis Leamy to start from the bench.

Ireland were disappointing in their opening game of this year's Six Nations tournament, narrowly beating Italy 13-11, courtesy of Ronan O'Gara's late drop-goal and the 6 Nations odds suggested the win should have been much more comfortable. The experienced fly-half will continue from the bench with Jonathan Sexton starting at 10 once again. There had been calls for Tomas O'Leary to be dropped at scrum-half but Kidney has kept faith with the Munsterman despite a poor showing in Rome.

Kidney has stood firm in the aftermath of the disappointment from last weekend amid plenty of calls for the coach to ring the changes to his team. The pressure will now be on his side to back his decision with a good showing in front of their home fans this weekend. If the Irish have any plans of reclaiming the Six Nations trophy from the French then they will need to come out of this weekend's match with a win.

If Ireland can pick up a win this weekend then they would be right back in the grand slam race with current favourites England. A defeat in Dublin this weekend would send them to Murrayfield in their next round in a very vulnerable position against a much-improved Scotland side and questions over Kidney's decision making would inevitably arrive in abundance.

Casey looks for brighter 2011

2010 was a very disappointing year for Paul Casey but the Englishman has started this year in good form and will be looking to get himself back amongst the world's best with the first major of the year just two months away. Casey lifted his first trophy for 18 months with a one-shot victory at the Volvo Golf Champions event held in Bahrain and the 33 year will be hoping the win is a springboard going into the US Masters at Augusta in April. Once again Casey failed to produce the consistency he needs to become one of the world's best and failed to make the cut in the Qatar Open which followed the Bahrain victory and followers of golf betting would have been disappointed by his performance.

At this stage in his career, Casey is looking to make the next step up and win his first major. The Masters will be the next opportunity for the world's number six ranked player and Casey feels the course is will assist his game. His record at the Masters will give the Englishman a lot of confidence, in six appearances at Augusta Casey has recorded four top 20 finishes and the Masters betting suggests he should do well again.

"The biggest goal really is a Major championship, starting with Augusta and the US Masters in April. The Masters is a great opportunity for me, with the way the golf course sets up," he said.

Casey will be looking to prove a point this year after struggling last year to find the consistency needed to break into the real elite in the game. The beginning of 2010 saw Casey miss the cut at Augusta before finishing in the top 40 at the US Open, in between the majors the 33 year old struggled with a number of niggling injuries.

Casey rediscovered his form by the time The Open came round at St Andrews, recording his best finish in a major by tying for third as Louis Oosthuizen picked up his surprise triumph ion the famous tournament. That performance was followed by the bitter blow as Casey missed out on selection for Europe's Ryder Cup side, captain Colin Montgomerie overlooking Casey for the event of the year. The perfect way to prove a point this year would be if Casey could go on and pick up that maiden major win.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gypsy unlikely to tackle Cheltenham mares’ race

Betting tips say Kim Bailey’s progressive mare Silver Gypsy seems most unlikely to take her chance at the Cheltenham Festival in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, and is instead a probable runner at Newbury in the EBF Mares ‘National Hunt’ Novices Hurdle Final, writes Elliot Slater.

A winner of a Fakenham bumper on her only start last term, the daughter of Luso went down by only a neck on her hurdling bow to the very useful Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained L’Accordioniste at Uttoxeter in October before returning to the Midlands venue four weeks later to win her maiden hurdle by 22-lengths, under Sean Quinlan. Carrying her penalty, she travelled next to Exeter where she again put up an impressive display, easily accounting for her 17 rivals running out a seven-length winner and justifying favouritism.

Her Exeter win was over two-mile-three-furlongs, and over a furlong further on her next start she stepped up into Listed company where she again performed with tremendous credit in finishing just over three-lengths third to the smart Banjaxed Girl on heavy ground. The speculation after that effort was for the six-year-old to head next to Cheltenham for a crack at top Irish mares Quevega and Voler La Vedette, but Bailey has given the matter some considerable thought and believes that at this stage of her career the Newbury option is a more realistic target. Irish horse racing tips would suggest that she may race in Ireland this year also.

Silver Gypsy will however remain with the Cheltenham option open to her just in case a significant number of the more fancied runners choose to bypass the closing event on the first day of the festival meeting. Silver Gypsy has been left in one or two lists for the ‘David Nicholson’ at odds of 40/1. Quevega remains a solid 5/4 favourite with Voler La Vedette offered at up to 7/1, together with the up-and-coming Sparky May.

Whateley a potential contender for leading Cheltenham owner

The name Diana Whateley might not be immediately recognisable to everyday racegoers or punters on National Hunt racing, but the owner who has at least 16 horses in training at present (12 with Philip Hobbs) is not without a chance of landing a hatful of Cheltenham Festival 2011 success at next month's stellar four-day fixture, writes Elliot Slater.

Last year Whateley's Menorah carried off the Supreme Novices' hurdle and this term appears to have very strong claims indeed of being crowned champion hurdler. In everything he has done so far this term Menorah has looked championship class and will surely run a massive race on March 15.

Other Whateley-owned horses include Wishfull Thinking, winner of the Grade 3 Murphy Group Handicap chase at Cheltenham recently where he got the better of Calgary Bay. The eight-year-old is a contender for the RSA Chase and also has the option of the Jewson Novices' Chase if the ground comes up soft. Another potential Jewson Chase candidate to run in Whateley's colours is Captain Chris, a half-length second to Medermit in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown recently, although a decision has yet to be taken as to whether he goes for the 'Jewson' or the Arkle Chase, over the minimum trip of two miles so anyone looking for Cheltenham tips will need to keep an eye on this.

With Nicene Creed a possible for the Neptune Investment Management Hurdle on day two of the festival, Tarablaze still under consideration for the RSA Chase, Keki Buku an outsider for the Arkle or a contender for one of the handicap events, as well as a number of other possible runners, the name of Diana Whateley could easily jump to prominence alongside JP McManus, Andy Stewart, Clive Smith and Trevor Hemmings, at what promises to be a very exciting fixture for the owner and her husband Graham.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tighter defence required at Ewood Park

Interestingly enough, Blackburn Rovers are one of the most exciting teams to have visit your ground this season, having simultaneously accrued the Premiership's 7th worst away defensive record as well as being the sixth highest scoring side from their games on the road this season. Although these stats fall in line with their new owners' demands that Blackburn play exciting football, the 31 goals that they have conceded from their thirteen games away from home have irked manager Steve Kean, who this week lamented the four goals his side shipped against relegation-battling Wigan Athletic.

Speaking after their 4-3 loss, he said: "We are scoring plenty of goals so that part of our game is not a problem. But we need to protect our back four and be a little bit less open, and that is something we will certainly be working on."

Equally interesting was the fact that Blackburn failed to sign a single defender in the recent transfer window; despite tying up contact extensions for both Christopher Samba and Michel Salgado, they only signed two midfielders – Formica and Jones – and two strikers – Santa Cruz and Rochina – in January. Could this be a sign that the Venky's Group are slightly reticent about letting an unproven manager splash serious cash before they have the chance to fully evaluate his performance over a sustained period? Pundits like Andy Gray have their doubts.

At present Blackburn are on a run which includes one win and four losses from their last five Premier League matches, and while sitting in eleventh place has given Kean's outfit the illusion of safety, they remain just five points clear of the relegation zone. With tough fixtures coming up against sides around them in the table – Newcastle at home before back-to-back away matches against Villa and Fulham – it's clear that the new owners will have a better idea of just how close Kean is to delivering on their intended ambition towards the end of the month, although the Premier League betting odds suggest they could struggle.

Kean has delivered on the first half of the Venky's Group's vision – clearly they are playing more exciting football than the side were under Sam Allardyce – but are thy any closer to qualifying for a European competition next season? Only time will tell.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A chance to Ravel in a cracking Derby bet

Every now and again a greyhound catches your eye and leaves you wondering "how good could that one be?" Well that is exactly the feeling I was left with having seen Danny Riordan's Rio Ravel win at Hove back in November. The December 08 son of Ace Hi Rumble, won in a blistering 29.53 on that evening, a truly sensational run and one that highlighted Danny Riordan's black as runner with a serious future.

Another key factor in siding with Rio Ravel is his proven ability to act at Wimbledon, the track that hosts the Derby. In winning at the circuit in October, he could count the top-class Droopys Oscar amongst his victims and the style of his win that night, suggested the six tough rounds of a Derby campaign would hold no fears to him, even if he is an outsider in the Greyhound Derby odds.

A strong running type, he has cracking middle gears and appeals as a runner who can keep qualifying through the early stages of the competition, but also one who will battle as hard as he can when the chips are down in the latter stages and will never give up.

His trainer Danny Riordan is experienced in handling Derby campaigners, he has trained both Rio Ricardo and the brilliant Droopys Corleone, reaching Derby semi-finals and it will come as no surprise if Rio Ravel goes one better than those illustrious kennel companions and makes the final in June. At odds of at least 66/1 he rates amazing value and is well worth a bet at this early stage.

Medermit emerges as a genuine Arkle contender

When the Alan King-trained Medermit refused while leading at Huntingdon on his second novice chase outing back in November, few observers would have genuinely reckoned that the talented grey would in fact prove good enough to win the Grade 1 Totepool Challenger Novices' Chase, (better known as the Scilly Isles Novices Chase) at Sandown, but that is exactly what he did on Saturday, winning in the style of a potentially very smart performer, writes Elliot Slater.

King has never lost faith in the grey son of Medaaly who proved good enough to fail by only a neck to catch the smart Go Native in the 2009 Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and finished seventh to Binocular in the Champion Hurdle a year later. A lot of focus will be on the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting odds when the Festival rolls around, but Medermit looks like he should be able to claim glory in one of the other high-profile races.

Medermit's Huntingdon antics followed a perfectly easy win on his chasing bow at Aintree in October, and he duly got back on track when wining with something to spare at Plumpton on December. Just run out of it at Cheltenham in Grade 2 company by the useful Hell's Bay, Medermit showed that he had his mind back on the job and at Sandown he jumped for fun before going clear at the last, only to do what so many horses have down on the Esher run-in over the years and idle in front, allowing Captain Chris to come with a late rattle which Robert Thornton's mount held after rallying well inside the last 50 yards to score by half-a-length.

The seven-year-old immediately advanced to 6/1 favourite for the two-and-a-half miles Jewson Novices' Chase at Cheltenham 2011, and was cut to the same price for the Arkle chase over the minimum trip, for which Finian's Rainbow (4/1f) and Ghizao (5/1) are the current market front-runners. A decision as to which race will be chosen for Medermit has yet to be taken.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Collectible Supplies : Display Cases

It has been nearly three years since I came up with this website and I owe the success of this site to all my readers who have been a constants source on encouragement and inspiration for me. I really appreciate all your kind words and comments. I had been away from blogging due to some personal commitments but I am back again with that post that would be liked by all those who value information. If you had looking for some information related to the football helmet display cases, I would suggest you to read this post. At the end of the post, you would know exactly what to do to if you had wanted to buy the best display case for your precious football helmet. Right from my younger days I used to collect items that I had been used by great people and preserve them. And since I am coming from a country were football is almost a religion, I have shown keen interesting in attending football matches and been trying to get hold of some match balls or helmets. Seeing this interest in me, my dad got a wonderful football helmet so that I can keep it in my collection and preserve it. Since I considered this helmet as one of my most precious collections, I wanted to get the best possible case for it. After an extensive search I came to know that was the right place to go for football helmet display cases. After going there I realized why they were so famous. I was surprised at the number of cases they had on display and each of them were at a much lesser price compared to other shops.

Infant clothing:NFL,MLB

Hey All, it is great to be back blogging after a small break. I have loads of interesting information that I would like to share with you all. And If you had looking for some information related to the infant clothing and merchandise, I would suggest you to read this post. At the end of the post, you would know exactly what to do to if you had wanted to buy your little one the jersey of the team you simple adore. All my life I have been an avid soccer fan. This might sound surprising to many since soccer is not as big a sport like baseball or basketball. But something made me follow soccer and I am a die hard Manchester United supporter and follow their matches closely in England and Europe. Though I had not been following football in my early ages, my group of friends made me follow it. I’ve starting watching football to an extent that I hardly miss any of Steelers matches. As time wore on I starting falling in love with the sport even more that I started to collect lots of merchandises and the posters of great players of the past. I also wanted my little boy to be in Steelers colors while we were watching so I went to and bought some Pittsburgh steelers infant clothing for my son. They also had some amazing Steelers merchandise which I liked particularly. They not only had the merchandise of Steelers but also stuff of every other team in NFL. I was so impressed with the dresses for the infants that I bought some wears for my friend’s son at incredibly cheap price.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beach Cruisers

Greetings to all my readers. Hope every one of you is doing great. This post is a must read for all those who value information. If you had looking for some information related to the women’s beach cruisers, I would suggest you to read this post. At the end of the post, you would know exactly what to do to if you had wanted to buy the best beach cruiser at the best price. Every weekend is special for each one of us since we get the chance to spend some quality time with our near and dear ones. And I am no exception to that and I always look forward to the weekends since that is when there is loads of fun to be had. Last weekend was one of the most memorable ones for quite some time. We had decided to go our beach house along with few of my cousins. Since my cousins were avid cyclists, we carry some beach cruiser’s along with us so that we can enjoy some amazing rides. So I set out along with my cousin Michelle so buy them. After searching long for the best place to buy a beach crusier, we came across and I was mighty impressed with them on the first sight. And as we checked out their ranges of womens cruiser, I was convinced that we had come to the right place to buy them. There were so many colors for us to choose from and extremely low prices! After lot of thought we bought four 26" 7-Speed beach cruisers that were really impressive.

EPL 2010-11 : Wolves - Manutd goals

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Manchester United

0-1 - Nani - (to be posted)

1-1 Elokobi - (to be posted)


Friday, February 4, 2011

Vince Lombardi - The Man, The Myth, The Legend

In a small bungalow in Green Bay, there once lived a man who has become one of the all-time greats of American football. Born in 1913, Vincent Thomas 'Vince' Lombardi came to Green Bay in 1959 and inherited a Packers team that had recorded only one win in 12 attempts the previous season. By the time he left nine years later, they had won five championships in seven years, and he had firmly established himself as a legend of the game. Even those who bet on the NFL owe him a debt of gratitude for helping make the modern game what it is.

It is not just his stats that make Lombardi so memorable, though they are impressive: nominated Coach of the Year in his first season, finishing with 98 wins and only 30 defeats, and posting a 9-1 record in the playoffs. A film of the 1967 Packers, The Greatest Challenge, described Lombardi as a man 'whose iron discipline was the foundation on which they built a fortress'. But he was no iron man, being often moved to tears, as when the film was first screened at his home.

During Lombardi's time as a coach, discrimination was prevalent outside the organisation, but for the coach all his players were 'neither black nor white, but Packer green'. Lombardi's players were as devoted to him as he was to the game, and it was his character as much as his success that makes him so popular. Those casting their eye over the NFL betting tips this weekend should remember the impact he had on the game.

He leaves quite a legacy. Not just the Vince Lombardi Trophy, for which the Packers and Steelers will compete on Sunday. The quotation 'Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing' is often attributed to Lombardi, although it is unlikely that it originated with him. But a slightly different version sits better with the great man's values: 'Winning isn't everything; the will to win is the only thing'.

Super Bowl XLV: The Intangibles

There are many differences of opinion concerning Super Bowl XLV, but one thing almost everyone can agree on is that it is one of the hardest Super Bowls to call. The two teams are so evenly matched that it could be the littlest things that make a difference. Here, then, are the intangibles, those often overlooked elements that could provide a crucial edge.

Pittsburgh like playing scrappy, outdoor games. Green Bay have an explosive offence, as evidenced by 35 straight points at Arizona. A high-scoring game naturally favours the Packers, while in a low-scoring contest the Steelers are thought to be the likely winners. Cowboys Stadium, which is domed with fast turf, might just help the Packers.

But Pittsburgh don't like losing Super Bowls. They've only done so once. Several of the current roster have been here before, for the wins in 2005 and 2008. Experience, especially if positive, can only help and people looking to place a Super Bowl bet should remember this.

Some people get nervous beforehand; some feel it when the whistle blows. If Green Bay start slowly they could be in trouble. They have not been more than seven points behind all season, but there's a first time for everything.

The Packers do however have home advantage and have chosen to wear their home green jerseys, despite white road jerseys bringing success in their playoff games. Home advantage won't show in the crowd though, which will be equally split between Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels: the orange and black of the Steelers against the Packers' green and gold and the Super Bowl betting hints at a pretty even game.

It will be close. The Packers are two-and-a-half point favourites and that seems generous. Historically, the Steelers win close games and the Packers lose close games. To prevail in a tight game on Sunday, Green Bay will have to upset the form book.

Bai waiting on easy ground for Haydock trial

Richard Lee's mudlark Le Beau Bai, third in the 2009 Welsh Grand National behind Dream Alliance and a lively outsider for this year's John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on April 9, looks set to tackle Haydock's big three-and-a-half mile handicap chase in mid-February, as long as conditions are testing, writes Elliot Slater.

Lee's eight-year-old finished third in the race last year when it was known as the Blue Square Gold Cup. This year, under the banner of the Grand National Trial, hopes are high that Le Beau Bai can go two places better. The Cadoudal gelding was sent off 5/1 favourite for last year's renewal, but after moving into third place on the home turn was unable to go with the leaders and could not improve his position, eventually trailing in 20-lengths behind Scottish raider Silver By Nature.

In four outings so far this time Le Beau Bai has run his best races on heavy ground so connections are once again hoping that the ground will be as testing as it can be without being unraceable. If the underfoot conditions are any better than 'soft' then Lee's stayer would be an unlikely runner and anyone keeping an eye on the Grand National odds should remember this.

Looking further ahead to the Grand National, Lee confirmed that much the same rules apply. His dream is to encounter conditions similar to those that saw Red Marauder beat Smarty in the mud bath that was the 2001 renewal. Most years the ground is closer to 'good' at Aintree so the chances are that in all probability Lee will end up disappointed and look instead to something like the Midlands Grand National where soft ground is a regular occurrence.

Le Beau Bai ranges in price from as short as 40/1 to as big as 80/1 for the Aintree marathon.

O'Sullivan warned about conduct

Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker, has warned Ronnie O'Sullivan about his conduct after he withdrew from the German Masters earlier this week.

The Englishman had been scheduled to play Dominic Dale on Thursday but cancelled his participation in the event. It is believed that medical reasons are to blame although he was in top form in the inaugural Snooker Shootout in Blackpool last weekend.

O'Sullivan has form when it comes to cancellations – last year he withdrew from the Shanghai Masters, as well as 10 lower-ranking events and anyone who was planning on betting on the snooker star would have been disappointed.

This attendance record has contributed to the former world number one falling to tenth place in the rankings and Hearn has had strong words to say about the prodigy.
Writing in the Guardian, he said: "I don't care if Ronnie doesn't play but what he can't do is enter and pull out at the last minute, without very good reason.
"It's his face on all the posters in Germany; it's a very important tournament for us as we try to develop the European market and an awful lot of people are going to be disappointed he's not there.

"This can't go on. Ronnie's very likeable when he wants to be but he should start considering his future in the game and his responsibilities to it."

O'Sullivan has always been a fans' favourite and his achievements have made him one of the greatest stars on the snooker circuit. It's fair to say that a tournament without him is a tournament significantly devalued and fans may feel short-changed with his no-show.

The incident will add fuel to the fire for The Rocket's critics but he will be hoping to prove everyone wrong later in the year at the World Championship, where he is 9/2 favourite in Ladbrokes Snooker Betting to prevail.